Browns punch playoff ticket

Flacco throws 3 TD passes as Cleveland tops the Jets 37-20

Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco passes against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

CLEVELAND — Joe Flacco passed for 309 yards and three touchdowns and the Cleveland Browns clinched an unlikely playoff berth — just their second since 2002 — despite numerous injuries this season with a 37–20 win over the New York Jets on Thursday night.

The Browns (11-5) are assured of a wild-card spot and still have a chance to win the AFC North and maybe the conference’s No. 1 overall seed, something that seemed unfathomable just weeks ago as major injuries piled up.

But things have changed since Flacco arrived.

Cleveland has been charmed.

The 38-year-old quarterback improved to 4-1 as a starter with the Browns, who plucked the Super Bowl 47 MVP off his couch in New Jersey last month to hopefully rescue their season. He’s done that and more.

Flacco threw two TD passes to Jerome Ford in the first half as the Browns built a 20-point lead over the Jets (6-10), who chose not to re-sign the 15-year veteran after he spent three seasons with them — and after Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon in Week 1.

Flacco torched New York for 296 yards in the first half and became the first QB in 34 games to go over 300 yards against the Jets. He’s also the first Cleveland quarterback to pass for more than 300 in four straight.

The Jets were forced to start Trevor Siemian for the second week in a row with Zach Wilson sidelined by a concussion.

Siemian had some nice moments, but an overthrow late in first quarter was returned 30 yards for a TD by safety Ronnie Hickman to put the Browns up 20-7.

New York’s Jermaine Johnson had a pick-6 in the second quarter when he beautifully deflected Flacco’s pass to himself and returned it 37 yards.

Nothing has been easy this season for the Browns, who have continued to win despite being overrun by injuries since the opener. Flacco is their fourth starting quarterback, they’re missing both first-team offensive tackles and 12 players — including QB Deshaun Watson and running back Nick Chubb — are on injured reserve.

So, it was fitting they went into their biggest game this season missing their starting kicker, punter and wide receiver Amari Cooper, who was coming off a franchise record-setting 265-yard performance on Sunday in Houston.


The Browns got their first looks at kicker Riley Patterson and punter Matt Haack, both signed earlier this week.

Patterson, filling in for an injured Dustin Hopkins, went 4 of 5 on extra points and made a 33-yard field goal with 2:54 left.

Haack averaged 51.7 yards on three punts.


Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett ended a five-game streak without a sack by taking down Siemian in the first half.

New York’s Garrett Wilson went over 1,000 yards receiving for the second straight season. He also did it as a rookie in 2022 and is one of 10 active players with two 1,000-yard seasons to start their career.


Browns wide receiver Elijah Moore suffered a head injury in the second quarter.

After catching a 22-yard pass from Flacco, Moore’s helmet was driven into the turf as he went down. He rolled onto his back and appeared to twitch as teammates quickly called for medical personnel.

Moore, who spent the past two seasons with the Jets, was helped off the field and escorted to Cleveland’s locker room.


Jets: WR Allen Lazard (illness) was among the team’s inactives. … OL Jacob Hanson suffered a concussion. … OT Xavier Newman was helped off the fourth quarter with an unspecified injury.

Browns: Cooper came in listed questionable, but was expected to play. However, after he tested a heel injury during an on-field workout, the Browns opted to have him sit rather than risk more damage. … CB Mike Ford Jr. (calf) got hurt covering a kick in the first quarter.


Jets: At New England on Jan. 7.

Browns: At Cincinnati on Jan. 7.


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